Yesterday, I was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church. At that beautiful ancient place of worship, Salisbury cathedral, on the feast of Michaelmas… Michael and All Angels. As the sun shone in through the stained glass and ancient golden stones, I and eleven others gathered around the altar, clothed in white and surrounded by priests and people, kneeling to pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy Spirit as the haunting sound of hundreds of people softly singing ‘veni Sancte Spiritus‘ -come Holy Spirit- ebbed and sighed around us like a tide.
Then after the bishop had laid hands upon each one of us with the ordination prayer, we all turned, and sat like children on the step of the dais, whilst the bishops set aside their golden robes and washed our feet. Singing, with the congregation now, ‘ubi caritas‘… where love is -God himself is there… After the awesome transcendence of the ordination prayer, the simplicity of having a foot washed and towelled dry, (with a mischievous grin as though the bishop knew how ticklish my feet are!) was refreshingly humbling… but somehow still not at all embarrasing or even quite down-to-earth… it was simply an act of gentle service that was impossible to avoid, and being served… being LOVED is really the most humbling thing of all.
The title of this post comes from one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Kate Bush… and, like many love songs instinctively do for me, it has always spoken somewhat of my relationship with God.
It’s kind of about running away from love, about being afraid of love, which is something many of us, probably most of us, in fact perhaps ALL of us human beings feel -more or less… And my own journey of Christian discipleship has been coloured throughout by a growing awareness of how I have feared God’s love… How I have feared love in general, and how I have gradually learned, not exactly to stop fearing love… I still believe that nothing on earth has the potential to be more costly or painful or frightening than love -as we can see in Christ’s love even to death on the cross of crucifixion… no, love is rightly to be feared, for what it asks of us, right down to our heart’s blood.
But I have learned to be brave, to gradually value love above more and more of the earthly peripherals, and to turn and face those dark corners in my own heart where I continually try to hide from love of God and neighbour.
And so to the title ‘Hounds of love’: I hope that if you read this, that you’ll look up the song and listen to Kate Bush sing it, it’s quirky and exciting. Don’t try to analyse it too hard just let it give you an impression through its lyrics -and then, to quote simultaneously from Kate Bush and the Bible let me tell you, that when I was a child, I was afraid of what might be… and like Peter, I’m two steps on the water and then crying out ‘Help me Please’ (Bush-Hounds of Love/ Matthew 14:29-30)…
There was a man, a monk now known as St John of the Cross, who wrote the most beautiful poetry, love poetry to God, based upon the biblical book Song of Songs : this is taken from his ‘Spiritual Canticle’
Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.
‘The Bride’ who speaks here in this poem, may be John of the Cross’ or may even be interpreted as ‘the Church’ in her relationship with God. …Here God appears as both the hunter and the hunted, lover and beloved, and in this feels very true for me now. Long ago I felt more like the fox -running away… But now, somehow I’m collared, and though my heart is still beating fast, and I still sometimes want to run away, the darkness is not the same, I’m somehow aware of ALSO running with others, running purposefully, running with, for and to God…